Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 23, 2011



RESERVE — For Riverside, the final steps on the road to Sulphur ended up being more difficult than anyone would have imagined.

But when Rebels’ third baseman Kori Bourgeois fielded Brooke Fontenot’s ground ball and threw to Kristy Milioto at first for the final out of Thursday night’s 8-7 Class 2A regional round victory over South Beauregard, it cemented the top-seeded Rebels’ as Sulphur-bound after a thrilling contest.

“We knew that we’d beat them twice, but that we couldn’t take them lightly,” said Riverside catcher Katie Bailey. “We knew we had to play every inning hard, put some runs up and then go three up and three down on defense. That didn’t always happen, but once the rally started we just had to keep it going.”

Said Riverside coach Kristy Hebert, “I thought we played a little uptight at times. We were thinking too much about not making mistakes. South Beauregard’s a good, well-coached team, and they weren’t going to come in and let us have anything, and they were able to put it in play and make us play defense.

“We’re glad to be going back to Sulphur. But It’s also a time to regroup over the next few days, after a game like this.”

The Rebels will face the winner of No. 9 Pine Prairie and No. 8 Mamou this Friday at the state softball tournament in Sulphur. That will be a quarterfinal game.

Riverside (29-2) had defeated the Knights twice this season, by scores of 8-1 and 11-1. But South Beauregard (15-17) would not go away as quietly on Thursday.

A scoreless sixth inning set up a dramatic seventh.

Destin Vicknair struck out Karlee Goodman to lead things off. But Holly Williams singled, then another Rebels’ error allowed Paige Myers to reach.

Vicknair bared down and struck out Heather Simmons, setting up a showdown with Fontenot that would decide the game. The Rebels’ dugout alternated between excitement and exasperation as Fontenot battled Vicknair with two strikes, fouling off pitch after pitch. Allie Parker beat Toni Hebert’s tag at third base on a double steal, setting up runners at second and third.

“That at-bat was indicative of the fight our team played with all day,” said South Beauregard coach Jack Deason. “That was an eighth-grader battling against the best pitcher in the state. And even in the end, she made them make a play.”

Fontenot would finally hit a groundball to Bourgeois, who made the throw to Milioto to clinch a second consecutive strip to Sulphur.

It certainly looked like it would be more of the same early on. The Rebels scored the first three runs of the game in the bottom of the first. Destin Vicknair knocked in Taylor Terrio to make it 1-0, then Katie Bailey connected on a two-run home run to push the lead to 3-0.

South Beauregard fired back though, scoring three runs to tie the game in the third inning. Riverside regrouped, this time on Vicknair’s own two-run homer to make it 5-3 entering the fourth inning.

But South Beauregard again tied things up, scoring two runs in the top of the fourth.

In the bottom of the fourth, Terrio walked and Milioto bunted her over. The knights recorded the out at first, but Terrio never broke stride and would round second and advance to third. Vicknair walked, and courtesy runner Kaci Simon was caught intentionally in a rundown, allowing Terrio to score from third to make it 6-5.

Bailey tripled and Kori Bourgeois drew a walk. That brought up Jenna Roussel, who socked a double to dead center and plated two more runs to make it 8-5.

“At first, I was really nervous. But then Coach just gave me that look as if to say, ‘You can do this.’ I believed in myself, and once I hit it, all the nerves left.”

Said Hebert, “I believe in our bats. They had momentum and we needed to take it back.”

South Beauregard just wouldn’t go away, though. Holly Williams walked and Heather Simmons knocked in a run on a single. Then Fontenot bunted, and an errant throw wide of first brought home another run to make it 8-7.

That was a theme throughout the evening, as South Beauregard’s bunting gave the normally airtight Rebel defense fits.

“I’ll be honest, I think the nerves got to us, especially looking at some of the errors we had,” said Bailey. “But we had to play through it.”

The Rebels got out of trouble, though, on a nice defensive play on a bunt by Rachel Craft, as Riverside recorded an out at third then got another at home, Bailey tagging Fontenot out.

Deason said that his team could have given nothing more.

“In 17 years of coaching, I’ve never been more proud of a team’s effort,” he said. “We’ve won two titles and been runner-up twice, so that says something. The way they came out and played against the number one team, on the road, after they punched us in the mouth in that first inning … I’m so proud of them.”

And for the Rebels, the late game drama could be a preview of sorts of what is to come in a week’s time.